Bumping along the dirt road, we made our way into a clearing leaving a large cloud of dust in our wake. In the backdrop was a brick church with thatched roof, and in the foreground sat a large group of women under the shade of a few trees with a handful of bicycles parked nearby. As we pulled the van into a spot off to the side, the women rose to their feet and began approaching us, their voices harmonizing into a song with a unique beauty I’ve found nowhere but in Malawi. There were 110 women dancing and singing that day.
Each one represented a family on the brink of running completely out of food.
It was a sobering sight.
That day was the first of a number of food distributions planned by World Relief (one of Summit’s partners) in the coming months. You see, Malawi has suffered the reality of severe drought the last couple years, which has resulted in widespread crop failure across the southern part of the country. Because of this, it is predicted that 7 million Malawians (50 million total across southern Africa) will begin running out of food by this month. It was even mentioned that some families who have money still won’t be able to obtain food due to its sheer unavailability. It is predicted to be the worst drought Malawi has seen in 30 years, with the next possible harvest not coming until next year after the rainy season.
It was a harsh reality that our most recent Summit team faced in the midst of the victories we had been witnessing throughout our prior week in country. Our team had been hearing story after story of the Malawian church rallying with one another and caring for vulnerable people in very tangible ways, much like the ways Jesus did during his time on earth. We had seen churches across denominations pooling their resources and doing things like digging new toilets for the elderly, building homes for those who could no longer physically do it themselves, planting gardens, saving and loaning money, starting businesses, building bridges so children could cross rivers to go to school… Not only did we hear the stories, we had visited the completed projects themselves! The work World Relief is doing to empower Malawians to take up Jesus’ call is working.
And yet here we stood, powerless, literally face to face with people who have no current means of obtaining food for their families. After a week of hearing success stories, we found ourselves feeling the weight of an overwhelming crisis that no one of us could really comprehend, much less control.
Not long after we arrived that day, another couple vehicles pulled up, one of which was a large truck carrying a few thousand pounds of maize (corn), soy flour, beans, oil, and salt. We watched as the women rose back to their feet and assembled into a single-file line, first to check in with a World Relief staff person and then to receive a food ration, enough to feed their family for one month.
One by one, each woman came forward and placed a bag of maize on her head—an unbelievable feat, as each bag weighed 110 pounds! She then proceeded to gather the remaining items in her hands, sometimes employing the help of her children or friends, and began the lengthy walk back to her home. The strength of these women was amazing.
Our time over the years with World Relief has shown us that they are in the business of long-term solutions. They don’t typically give “handouts” as we often think of them, but in situations like this, when it’s a matter of life or death, it changes the game. But even in scenarios like this one, as World Relief seeks to provide relief, they are doing so in ways set on providing more resistance to future droughts in Malawi.
Because of World Relief’s unique partnerships and programs in the region, they are positioned to respond to this crisis with food provisions and resilience trainings for the future. The deep need right now is for funding to bring food from outside the region so these families can survive. It’s a reality none of us can solve individually, but it’s one in which we really can have a tremendous impact collectively. It’s why I’ve begun giving my own dollars and why I invite you to consider joining me. It’s imperative we don’t allow the vastness of the problem to paralyze us into inactivity. Jesus is very much at work there. I’ve seen it.
The global church has the opportunity to respond now and serve the most vulnerable—just as the Malawian churches have been in their own communities—to provide food for families who literally will have no access to it. Would you consider joining World Relief’s efforts by giving to or advocating for our fellow family members across the ocean?
Visit here for more information on the food shortage and how you can help.
Nathan Boyett is the Global Partnerships Coordinator at Summit. Email him if you any questions about our partnerships in Africa.